6

Here's a quote from Tomas de Quincey's "Confessions of an English Opium-Eater":

Turkish opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid as themselves.

De Quincey's clearly talking about the stupidity of the Turkish opium-eaters and that they're telling lies about the experience of eating opium.

My question, though, is about the connection between equestrian statues and wooden logs. As I can see from Wiki (sorry for Wiki, but this article clearly has good references), those statues are made of stone, marble etc. What statues is Quincey talking about? Is it a specific kind of equestrian statues? Was it typical for some period in the history to build such statues? Are those some toys for children he's referring to?

2

He means they sit completely still, as still as statues.

They sit on logs, so the statues they most resemble are statues of people mounted on horseback (equestrian statues) - the horse being the equivalent of the log.

This is the ‘torpor’ he describes elsewhere in the para:

With respect to the torpor supposed to follow, or rather (if we were to credit the numerous pictures of Turkish opium-eaters) to accompany the practice of opium-eating, I deny that also. Certainly, opium is classed under the head of narcotics; and some such effect it may produce in the end: but the primary effects of opium are always, and in the highest degree, to excite and stimulate the system: this first stage of its action always lasted with me, during my noviciate, for upwards of eight hours; so that it must be the fault of the opium-eater himself if he does not so time his exhibition of the dose (to speak medically) as that the whole weight of its narcotic influence may descend upon his sleep. Turkish opium-eaters, it seems, are absurd enough to sit, like so many equestrian statues, on logs of wood as stupid as themselves. But that the reader may judge of the degree in which opium is likely to stupify the faculties of an Englishman, I shall (by way of treating the question illustratively, rather than argumentively) describe the way in which I myself often passed an opium evening in London, during the period between 1804-1812. It will be seen, that at least opium did not move me to seek solitude, and much less to seek inactivity, or the torpid state of self- involution ascribed to the Turks. I give this account at the risk of being pronounced a crazy enthusiast or visionary: but I regard /that/ little: I must desire my reader to bear in mind, that I was a hard student, and at severe studies for all the rest of my time: and certainly had a right occasionally to relaxations as well as the other people: these, however, I allowed myself but seldom.

  • 1
    So the "logs of wood" aren't part of the metaphor? I.e. "statue of person on horse" is being used as a metaphor for "opium eater on log"? Might be worth saying that in your answer just to be clear, since it seems to be what's confusing the OP. (Also, welcome to Literature! Long time no see :-D ) – Rand al'Thor Jun 24 '18 at 17:43
  • 1
    @Randal'Thor Hey, how’s it going? Has been a long time! IMO “statue of person riding horse” (the statue consists of both horse and rider) is being used as a simile for “Turkish opium-eater sitting on log”. Their similarity is that both are immobile. – A E Jun 24 '18 at 17:53
  • 1
    @AE I should've gotten it from the very beginning. Tnx. It's just that I went to check on equestrian statues and totally forgot about the 'torpor' thing. So what I should've done was to read between the lines sth like 'they sit on the logs of wood, as the horseman in equestrian statues sit on their marble/stone horses' with the emphasis on 'their marble/stone horses' being dropped by the author as sth to be understood naturally. Do I get it right? – P. Vowk Jun 24 '18 at 21:29
  • 1
    @P.Vovk Yup that’s it. – A E Jun 25 '18 at 7:12

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.